Advancements in technology have created a global workforce, allowing us to collaborate in ways that weren’t possible before. Today, many companies look across city, state and international lines for talent and partnerships to help their businesses grow while keeping costs down.
Though a remote team can help you get to market quicker and be more cost effective, I’ve learned while growing my own global company that maintaining a remote team is no easy feat. Luckily, there are ways to make this process relatively painless and enjoyable. Here are a few tips we’ve discovered at my company, BoardVitals, to make working with remote workers seamless.
Start with video.
A great team is built on trust and respect. It can be hard to trust a person you’ve only emailed with a few times but haven’t met in person. When bringing on a new team member, I recommend using a video-conferencing tool like Skype or Google+ to help build an initial rapport.
Video interaction can help build a closer relationship with your remote team member. A teleconference is crucial for learning more about a co-worker’s personality and what support they will need to succeed. You’ll also be able to pick up on some cues, both verbal and non-verbal, that may help you better understand their written communications. Personally, we use video conferencing tools on a weekly basis to stay in touch with contractors.
Use a product management tool.
Project management tools like Trello and Pivotal Tracker can help you and your remote team collaborate by defining and organizing tasks for projects. With project management software, each party can assign tasks, due dates and receive updates from within one interface.
The BoardVitals team uses Trello to manage projects and has found it to be instrumental for team coordination. From content to graphic design, our Trello boards outline projects currently in progress and define deliverables and due dates. This team collaboration helps our contractors prioritize and stay up to date with the latest update on each project. Implementing this project management tool has aided accountability on our team in every corner of the globe.
Provide detailed instructions.
No one knows your company as well as you. When bringing a new team member on board, it’s important to train them on the inner workings of the company that will pertain to their job. This can be done through training materials, video conferences and exemplary content.
It’s important to us that all team members are on all the same page. This helps us prevent confusion, and allows us to move at a faster pace. When providing instructions for an initial project, it’s vital to give detailed instructions — probably more detailed than you may be used to — and to ask the remote team member to repeat the directions back to you. This will ensure that the project is understood and free of ambiguous directions. Clarifying instructions upfront takes more effort initially but saves countless hours over time.
Have frequent check-ins.
Whether remote or in office, it’s important to have frequent check-ins with all employees to prevent roadblocks. Frequent communication will ensure that all parties are on the same page and on track for success.
Short, daily check-ins for projects that involve a lot of coordination or communication can be beneficial to keep things moving, while weekly or bi-weekly check-ins might be more appropriate for progress updates on more isolated projects. To stay on the same page, each group from our team sends out a weekly update to the entire team highlighting the wins and hurdles from the past week.
Create a remote community.
It’s important to make a remote team member feel like they are part of the core team. One way to connect remote employees with the local team is to use a company-wide chat client like HipChat or Slack. These tools enable employees to discuss project information within specific chat rooms that you can assign. When onboarding new team members, I also like to offer a list of tasks that encourages them to engage with each member on the team.
At BoardVitals, we’ve also created a digital “water cooler” on Slack that allows the team members to share personal notes, updates and the latest viral videos. Team members chat daily to collaborate and share ideas from within a number of channels we have created, from funny things at the “water cooler” to serious work in the appropriate other channels we created.
Whether your team is at home or abroad, communication, team infrastructure and the right digital tools are the key to any strong working relationship.